December 11, 2017

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast Day - December 12th  

When Saint John Paul II declared Our Lady of Guadalupe to be patroness of both Mexico and the Americas, he was not merely acknowledging the miracles that took place on a hill near Mexico City in 1531. He was confirming in a powerful way the lesson that Our Lady had already taught when she chose a poor Indian peasant to be her ambassador of faith. He emphasized that all the Americas — north, south, central and the Caribbean — are one, and that all the peoples therein need to be treated equally. He pointed to the fact that the Blessed Mother, through her appearance as Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the Mary of the Magnificat, who stands with the lowly and the poor. And finally, the Pope reminded us that it was Mary’s wish to invite all people, both those native to Mexico and those who came there from Europe, to a profound conversion together in the name of her Son, Jesus.

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful one. It began near present-day Mexico City on December 9, 1531, when a poor Indian named Juan Diego was making his way to Mass at a nearby chapel. As he passed a hill known locally as Tepeyac, he heard music that sounded like the singing of birds. When he went to investigate, he saw, in the midst of a radiant cloud, a young native woman dressed like an Aztec princess. This beautiful lady spoke to him in his own language, and sent him with a message to the Catholic bishop in Tenochtitlan.

The bishop, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga, was in no hurry to see this poor peasant; when he finally consented to hear his story and the Lady’s request that went with it—that the bishop build a chapel on the spot where the Lady had appeared—he sent Juan Diego away with instructions to ask the Lady for a sign. The bishop probably thought that would be the last he would see of this illiterate Indian.

Somewhat discouraged by the bishop’s lukewarm, Juan Diego nevertheless intended to comply with the bishop’s demand. In the meantime, however, Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill, even to the point of death, and for two days his devoted nephew did not leave his side.

Then, on December 12, Juan Diego found himself hurrying to St. James convent to fetch a priest for his uncle. The way led to the hill at Tepeyac, and Juan Diego, not wanting to insult the Lady but also not wanting to put off getting help for his uncle, had decided to skirt the mountain and avoid the inevitable delay a conversation with the Lady would entail.

But the Lady knew of the situation and of Juan Diego’s good heart. She instead intercepted him and, after assuring him that his uncle would recover completely — indeed, the uncle was cured the very minute she spoke — she proceeded to tell him what sign to bring to the bishop. In a nearby spot, in a season when such things did not grow, Juan Diego found bushes of exquisite Castilian roses in full bloom. He picked them and put them in his tilma, or rough cloak normally worn by peasants. The Lady rearranged the roses and instructed Juan Diego to take them to the bishop, but to keep them untouched and unseen until the bishop himself should behold them.

Once again, Juan Diego waited for an audience with the bishop. When the bishop finally met with him, he asked him what sign he had brought from this mysterious lady; Juan Diego opened his tilma and the roses spilled out onto the floor. Immediately, the bishop and everyone with him fell to their knees in awe. For there, on Juan Diego’s cloak, was an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, exactly as she had appeared to this poor Indian peasant at Tepeyac.

See Ten Amazing Facts About the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It has been over 400 years since Juan Diego’s tilma received the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tilma, which normally would have lasted only about 10 years, has not deteriorated; it has survived smoke, water and a bomb planted near it by anticlerical forces in 1921. Nor can anyone explain how the wonderful picture came to be. What we do know is that it serves as an expression of the love that the Blessed Virgin has for all people. “I am the ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence,” the Blessed Virgin told Juan Diego. “I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion…I will console them and they will be at peace.”

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